Did you know you can make ChatGPT smarter with plugins? It’s early days, but there’s already add-ons to help it give you everything from better programming and math advice to local restaurant recommendations.
Not all the plugins in the ChatGPT store are created equally, however — there’s some real shockers on there — and getting access to the store itself is a chore, as we’ll cover in this article. We’ll also chat about why you’d want to install this feature (and why you wouldn’t).
Table of contents
- What are ChatGPT plugins?
- Why ChatGPT plugins are a game changer
- How stable are ChatGPT plugins?
- There’s a limit to how many ChatGPT plugins you can activate (and it’s annoying)
- Is it safe to use ChatGPT plugins?
- Are ChatGPT plugins free?
- ChatGPT plugins are capped (because GPT-4 is)
- How do I add plugins to ChatGPT? A step-by-step guide
- How do I uninstall a ChatGPT plugin?
- How do I tell if a ChatGPT plugin is working?
- How to see what ChatGPT plugins are doing beneath the hood
What are ChatGPT plugins?
ChatGPT plugins are add-ons you can pair with the AI chatbot to extend its capabilities. These are available through the ChatGPT plugins store. Only a few are made by OpenAI itself, with the vast majority made by third party developers. ChatGPT plugins only work with GPT-4, which gives the chatbot access to the internet.
There are more than 80 plugins in the ChatGPT store with a wide range of functions: giving you better writing prompts, helping you book flights and local restaurants, giving financial advice, and even providing you with timely links to XKCD comics.
ChatGPT plugins vs ChatGPT extensions: Not the same thing
There are also a lot of ChatGPT Chrome extensions out there like WebChatGPT and Compose AI, but these are different from plugins:
- ChatGPT plugins improve the capabilities of ChatGPT with (mostly) third-party products.
- ChatGPT extensions improve the capabilities of third-party products with ChatGPT.
Why ChatGPT plugins are a game changer
There are a lot of areas where ChatGPT plainly sucks. Math is one of them. Since ChatGPT is based on a language model, it’s a superstar when it comes to anything linguistic. But try to get it to calculate something like an IP subnet, and it’ll repeatedly give the wrong answer and a wonky reasoning on how it got there.
ChatGPT plugins strengthen these weaknesses by allowing third parties who specialize in a service to connect with the chat bot. For example, with mathematics, there’s a plugin for Wolfram that gives ChatGPT access to the Wolfram Language and Wolfram|Alpha. It doesn’t solve all of ChatGPT’s math problems, but anything is better than nothing right now.
Plugins aren’t just a game changer; they’re disruptive. Research shows 80% of the U.S. workforce will have their jobs impacted by products like ChatGPT, with 19% of workers seeing at least half of their work tasks impacted. After all, if ChatGPT can book your whole trip for you, what work does that leave for a travel agent?
It’s pretty early days still. ChatGPT and GPT-4 are still very much the wild west, particularly for business leaders. But ChatGPT plugins are the foundation for enabling the chatbot to do some pretty powerful stuff.
How stable are ChatGPT plugins?
The ChatGPT plugins feature and store is currently in beta, and it’s pretty obvious. Many of the third-party plugins don’t actually do what you want them to do, so expect a mixed bag. Some “just work” out of the box, whereas others fail to call even with the most obvious prompts.
That said, the ones that do work really shine when it comes to improving the overall ChatGPT experience.
There’s a limit to how many ChatGPT plugins you can activate (and it’s annoying)
You can only have a maximum of three ChatGPT plugins enabled at once. We suspect either OpenAI (the creators of the chatbot) isn't convinced the plugins won’t play well together, or that too many will somehow negatively affect ChatGPT itself.
This limit is surprisingly constricting. If you’ve got a choice of three plugins, are you really going to spend one of them on something like Comic Finder, which allows you to find XKCD and SMBC comics to match any prompt? This limit forces you to jump in and out of the settings all the time, constantly turning on and off plugins based on the use case.
You can see which ones are activated by a little plugin icon at the top, but this isn’t visible or alterable when you’re in an active chat. You’ve got to go to create a new chat, then alter it from there, at which point you might as well create a new chat anyway. All that clicking back and forth gets really old really fast.
Is it safe to use ChatGPT plugins?
There are always inherent risks with installing any sort of third-party plugin. They can get infected or compromised. ChatGPT plugins are no different. In fact, ChatGPT gives you a big warning the moment you go to turn the feature on, with a siren icon informing you to do your research.
Keep in mind that ChatGPT is labeled as a “research preview,” which means it’s not officially a product. That means that if you use it, you may not be covered by product liability. On top of that, ChatGPT plugins are a beta feature within a research preview, so take from that what you will.
ChatGPT's plugin review policy
ChatGPT does review plugins before they’re made available in the store, and there’s a very small amount of them for OpenAI to review right now. To be approved for the store, a plugin must adhere to OpenAI’s content and plugin policies, which means:
- The plugin can’t be used for malware, scams, or spreading misinformation
- The plugin can’t circumvent or interfere with OpenAI’s safety systems
- The plugin manifest must have a clearly stated description that matches the functionality of the API exposed to the model
OpenAI has said their plugin review process is in the very early days, and it’s going to “change significantly over time.” With any ChatGPT plugin extension, you’ll want to perform at least the following steps before you activate it:
- Vet the developer and plugin for legitimacy (start by checking their website)
- Read the description and look for anything that might be questionable
- Check to see if you can find some reviews by other users
Don't install anything you don't need
When it comes to plugins, only install what you need. This minizes your attack surface area, and ChatGPT makes this easy given you’ve got a limit of three plugins. However, also this extends to not installing a lot of plugins and having them untoggled. To quote Marie Kondo, if they’re not bringing you joy, uninstall them.
If you’re technically savvy, you can see what is going on beneath the hood (sort of) with ChatGPT plugins. Most folks, however, aren’t able to tell between regular and malicious code.
ChatGPT is not immune to being hacked directly (and has been before)
Bad actors can and have turned their attentions to attacking ChatGPT directly. OpenAI recently confirmed a data breach in the system which was caused by a vulnerability in the Redis client open-source library it used (Redis-py).
During that time, OpenAI said the first messages of newly created conversations could have been visible to other users. It also "may have caused the unintentional visibility of payment-related information of ChatGPT Plus subscribers who were active during a specific nine-hour window" as well as first and last names, email and payment addresses, and some credit card details.
In short, keep in mind that ChatGPT is also a third-party tool, and therefore an attack vector for bad actors to exploit.
Read our guide on how to security review AI models
Are ChatGPT plugins free?
The plugins are free, but access to them isn’t. Right now, you’ve got to have a ChatGPT Plus subscription to access the ChatGPT plugin store. On top of that, ChatGPT plugins only work with access to the internet, and that’s only possible with GPT-4, which is a pro feature.
ChatGPT plugins are capped (because GPT-4 is)
Not only are you limited to three active plugins for ChatGPT at one time, but OpenAI also caps the number of times you can use the plugins through limiting your number of GPT-4 queries. Once you hit the cap, you're sent back to GPT-3.5 (the free version) to wait for it to refresh.
There’s no real option to pay for more time, either. If you’re using the plugins for a lot of consecutive queries, you may hit this cap and have to set a timer on your clock to come back.
How do I add plugins to ChatGPT? A step-by-step guide
First, you need access to ChatGPT Plus, since ChatGPT plugins aren’t available on free accounts. Upgrading to ChatGPT Plus is simple: just go into ChatGPT and click on “Upgrade to Plus” in the bottom right corner, then follow the purchase steps.
Once you’ve done that, return to ChatGPT and follow these steps.
How to turn on ChatGPT plugins (First time)
- In the bottom right corner, click on your account name.
- Click on Settings.
- In the Setting menu, click on Beta features.
- Click on the Plugins toggle. An ‘About Plugins’ message will appear the first time you do this. Read it and, if you’re fine with the terms, click OK.
- Go to create a new prompt and hover over GPT-4 at the top. There should now be a dropdown that allows you to switch between the standard and plugin powered version of GPT-4.
- Click Plugins [Beta].
- The ChatGPT plugin mode is now enabled! There should be a text dropdown telling you how many you currently have active, which should be none at the moment.
How to access the ChatGPT store and add plugins
- Click on No plugins enabled beneath the GPT mode toggle.
- Click on Plugin store.
- Find the plugin you want to activate, and click Install. Repeat this process for every plugin you are interested in.
- Click X to exit the store.
- Click on No plugins enabled beneath the GPT mode toggle again. You should now see the plugins you have chosen, and how many are active.
- Click on the check mark next to each plugin you want active. You can only have three enabled at any time.
- Icons should appear beneath the GPT mode toggle showing you which plugins are now active.
- To deactivate any plugins without uninstalling them, just uncheck the box next to the plugin in the same dropdown.
How do I uninstall a ChatGPT plugin?
- Click on the plugin button beneath the GPT mode toggle.
- Click on Plugin store.
- Click on Installed.
- Find the plugin you want to activate, and click Uninstall.
How do I tell if a ChatGPT plugin is working?
When ChatGPT responds, it will tell you if it used that plugin to answer you using a note above the response, as shown in the image below. You may need to use a special prompting term specific to the plugin to get it to activate (E.g. For the PromptPerfect plugin, you need to write 'perfect' in front of your prompt). Others will automatically activate if you ask something relevant.
How to see what ChatGPT plugins are doing beneath the hood
When ChatGPT uses a plugin, you can click on the “Used (plugin)” above the answer to see what requests and responses were made.
This can be helpful if you’re a bit suspicious of what’s going on and want to have a deeper look. However, it’s also not a complete picture of what’s going on, so you’ll want to do your own research.
Want to learn how to use ChatGPT to write code?
Conclusion: ChatGPT plugins are powerful, but be picky!
Do your research before you install any plugins, and keep in mind that it’s frontier days for the plugin store. However, extending ChatGPT’s capabilities is pretty exciting stuff. It’ll be interesting to see what the landscape looks like in the future and what developers come up with to enable users.
If you’re keen to get your foot in the door with ChatGPT, we recommend checking out Amber Israelsen’s course, “ChatGPT and Generative AI: The Big Picture.” In it, Amber goes through the basics of generative AI, how it works, and how to apply ChatGPT to solving real-world problems.
And, as a reward for making this far, check out our article on "Pigeon VS AI: Is a wild bird smarter than artificial intelligence?" In it, we answer the burning question of what is smarter, bird or bot. The answer may surprise you!
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